Category Archives: College costs

Athletic Spending Database

The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics has released a database (“Athletic & Academic Spending Database for NCAA Division I“) that let users put together custom reports that compare spending for Division I athletic programs.

I did a quick comparison of spending at Stephen F. Austin vs the University of Texas (that is, where I am compared to where I went to school). You can click on the graph to see a larger version.

Screen Shot 2013-12-04 at 7.37.59 AM

As you can see, there’s no real comparison. I have occasionally been amused by colleagues here who like to talk about “big time college athletics” at SFA

The Knight Commission’s system allows you to compare spending on academics (I chose “Instructional Spending per FTE) to academic and non academic spending per student. You can compare all kinds of schools and all kinds of variables. It’s big-time college fun.

It’s not just a HBU thing

Aaron Taylor has an article in Inside Higher Ed calling for historically black colleges to move to Division II. He makes some very good arguments. However, it’s worth noting that some of us think this argument goes beyond HBU programs and the the NCAA and the media have some obligation to creating meaningful competition and fan interest in schools beyond the big programs that make them the most money.

UT President Powers on our higher ed investment

University of Texas President Bill Powers has an op-ed piece (“Higher ed needs investment“) where he outlines the case for reviving the state’s investment in higher education. Powers concludes with a broad argument about who bears responsibility for making the most of an investment in higher education :

University administrations need to aggressively control higher education’s cost. But the responsibility for the cost of public higher education also rests with the public. Higher education affordability should be a nationally shared priority. State governments should begin making up lost ground by returning to their historical investment levels for higher education. It will help hold the line on the cost to students, and it’s the best investment of public dollars we can possibly make.

What Powers leaves out is the failure of state leaders to set real priorities and the rising costs of the increasing bureaucracy spawned in the hall state and federal bureaucracies. The very officials complaining about college costs have contributed to them in their posturing over pointless “accountability” programs that accomplish nothing except make universities hire more people who work with state bureaucrats rather than students.

Delaying Improvements

The Texas Tribune has a story (“In Absence of TRBs, Universities Delaying Improvement“) about how schools are responding to the lack of funding for projects. Perry’s silence on this has had a profound impact because funding these projects is not going to get the spotlight without a little help from state leaders. Perry is very interested in slowing the state’s rising debt as he positions himself to run for president and that made the issue a non-starter with him.

Issues about unpaid internships

A  story in the Chronicle of Higher Education (“Colleges Draw Criticism for Their Role in Fostering Unpaid Internships“) questions universities putting students into unpaid internships.

On one hand, we keep hearing more from employers about the value of some kind of internship or experiential learning. Employers like applicants with some kind of workplace experience that may develop and demonstrate valuable skills and the ability to function in a workplace.

On the other hand, businesses have conveniently created a large pool of unpaid labor. Part of the problem is that all students may not have access to these internships since they may lack the resources to go off and work without pay for months. Those of us in schools in small towns may not have very many internships nearby and asking students to find and afford housing in another city creates a major burden.


Still Feeling that Higher Ed Anxiety

Faculty members have more reasons that ever to feel that higher ed anxiety. Getting students to read is harder than ever. Respect for faculty and education is dropping. Online course offer both new opportunities to reach students and new problems about who is on the other end and exactly what they’re learning. More of the university is being transformed in a bureaucracy serving rituals of assessments driven by political credit claiming.

The political dynamics surrounding higher education in Texas is making its own contribution. Frank Bruni, in a Op-Ed piece in the New York Times (“Questioning the Mission of College‘). Sums it up pretty well:

“I’d sound yet another alarm. Scratch the surface of some of the efforts to reform state universities and you find more than just legitimate qualms about efficiency and demands for accountability. You find the kind of indiscriminate anti-intellectualism and anti-elitism popular among more than a few right-wing conservatives…

In other words there’s some crude, petty politics in all of this. And as we tackle the very real, very important challenge of giving young Americans the best and most useful education possible in an era of dwindling resources, that’s the last thing we need.”

My biggest worry today is not that another generation of students will come along and present new challenges. My fear is that the state will strip us of the resources we need to meet those challenges and that the politicians of the state will be working against us. Getting students to read and explore new ideas will be even harder when their  lack of respect for education finds comfort in the political rhetoric of the state’s leaders. Our state leaders  ask only for superficial measures of success (lower tuition bills, higher diploma counts) without asking whether or not graduate or employers are better served. The irony is that while these politicians want to invest only in diplomas and job-related skills, they have no idea what jobs or skills will actually be needed in the future.

Young Texans get the wrong messages from the state: “Don’t learn the subjects in K-12, just passed the standardized tests. Don’t embrace the broad-based education offered by your college, just get the diploma as cheaply as possible. If you fail, the responsibility rests with the school.”

Some employers are already suffering through the consequences  and pushing back. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait for the private sector to unite and lead the rebellion against the decline in learning. The anti-intellectualism and anti-elitism built into the current political regime guarantees that teachers and professors will be the last people to be given a voice in education policy.


It turns out that faculty workloads are not responsible for rising tuition (“Report That Blamed Shrinking Faculty Workloads for Rising College Costs Is Retracted“). It appears that the geniuses behind the original report didn’t bother to see what the variables meant before using them.

The exoneration of faculty will not come as a surprise to anyone in Texas who watched tuition skyrocket after tuition deregulation even as faculty workloads changed very little.

Don’t expect the finger-pointing at faculty to end. Politicians blaming faculty for rising tuition reminds me of watching O.J. Simpson look for the real killer. Somehow they keep on overlooking the most obvious suspect.

Teaching Loads and Rising College Costs

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a story (“Lighter Teaching Loads Contribute to Rising College Costs, Report Says “) that links rising tuition to lower teaching loads. According to the study mentioned in the article, the teaching load for tenure-track faculty decreased from 2.6 to 2.7 over 15 years. Much of this shift is associated with more schools emphasizing research over teaching.

I would worry about seeing an increased teaching load if mine wasn’t already four courses a semester. However, I worry that my school will continue to ask me to do more research and service and act as if I have one of those more generous two or three-couse loads.

The ‘Country Club’ College Works

Scott Carlson (“What’s the Payoff for the ‘Country Club’ College? – Buildings & Grounds) discusses a recent study that found that some colleges benefit more from spending on “consumption amenities” than instruction.

WSJ on Higher Education cuts

The Wall Street Journal has a story outlining the cuts to higher education and the impact it may be having on competitiveness (” Funding Cuts Lead to University Battles, Warning From Panel“).

It’s good to see the Wall Street Journal and other major publications taking note of the declining support we’re getting from states. Now we need to get people to understand you can’t get something for nothing.